A Critique From the Services
This probably sounds a lot like the critique of the Iraq war you’ve been hearing from me, doesn’t it?
Of particular concern has been the conflation of al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as a single, undifferentiated terrorist threat. This was a strategic error of the first order because it ignored critical differences between the two in character, threat level, and susceptibility to U.S. deterrence and military action. The result has been an unnecessary preventive war of choice against a deterred
Iraq that has created a new front in the Middle East for Islamic terrorism and diverted attention and resources away from securing the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable al-Qaeda. The war against Iraq was not integral to the GWOT (Global War on Terrorism), but rather a detour from it.
Additionally, most of the GWOT’s declared objectives, which include the destruction of al-Qaeda and other transnational terrorist organizations, the transformation of Iraq into a prosperous, stable democracy, the democratization of the rest of the autocratic Middle East, the eradication of terrorism as a means of irregular warfare, and the (forcible, if necessary) termination of WMD proliferation to real and potential enemies worldwide, are unrealistic and condemn the United States to a hopeless quest for absolute security. As
such, the GWOT’s goals are also politically, fiscally, and militarily unsustainable…
The GWOT as it has so far been defined and conducted is strategically unfocused, promises much more than it can deliver, and threatens to dissipate scarce U.S. military and other means over too many ends. It violates the fundamental strategic principles of discrimination and concentration.
Yep. Those darn liberals and their constant complaining!
Except this time the “liberals” are wearing Army green and Air Force blue. The passage above is from a report, “Bounding the Global War on Terrorism” (link goes to PDF copy of report), just released by the Army War College, the Army’s institution for the education of “future strategic leaders” (i.e. junior officers who have the potential to become two-, three-, and four-star generals). Its author, Dr. Jeffrey Record, is on the faculty of the Air Force’s Air War College, which serves a similar function for that branch. His CV includes stints as a defense advisor to Senators Sam Nunn and Lloyd Bentsen, two hawkish Democrats who were never, to my knowledge, seen wearing Birkenstocks or flowers in their hair.
All of which makes the paper that much more remarkable. It makes a persuasive case that the war on terrorism as currently constituted is a tar pit — a commitment without end to meet goals without definition. The only firm goal in the war seems to be the elimination of terrorism, and Dr. Record points out how insanely difficult that will be, given that nobody can even agree on what terrorism is; Record identifies a study that found 100 different definitions for the term, and that’s one study!
He then goes on to demolish the Administration’s argument that it never said anything to tie together Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda:
As it approached war with Iraq, the administration insisted on co-conspiratorial links between the Saddam Hussein regime and al-Qaeda; repeatedly raised the specter of the dictator’s transfer of WMD to al-Qaeda; and encouraged the view that Saddam Hussein had a direct hand in the 9/11 attacks. At war’s end, it hailed the regime’s destruction as a victory in the war on terrorism.
In September 2002, President Bush declared, “You can’t distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terrorism. They’re both equally as bad, and equally as evil, and equally as destructive.” He added that “the danger is that al-Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam’s madness and his hatred and his capacity to extend weapons of mass destruction around the
In a formal news conference on March 6, 2003, just days before he launched Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, the President linked the case for war against Iraq to the 9/11 attacks, implying that Saddam Hussein would replicate them once he got nuclear weapons. “Saddam is a threat. And we’re not going to wait until he does attack,” he declared. “Saddam Hussein and his weapons [of mass destruction] are a direct threat to this country,” he reiterated. “If the world fails to confront the threat posed by the Iraqi regime . . . free nations would assume immense and unacceptable risks. The attacks of September 11, 2001, showed what enemies of America did with four airplanes. We will not wait to see what . . . terrorist states could do with weapons of mass destruction.” Later on, he stated:
“Saddam Hussein is a threat to our nation. September the 11th changed the–the strategic thinking, at least as far as I was concerned, for how to protect the country . . . . Used to be that we could think that you could contain a person like Saddam Hussein, that oceans would protect us from his type of terror. September the 11th should say to the American people that we’re now a
battlefield, that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terrorist organization could be deployed here at home.”
When asked about the possible human and financial cost of a war with Iraq, President Bush answered, “The price of doing nothing exceeds the price of taking action… The price of the attacks on America . . . on September 11th [was] enormous… And I’m not willing to take that chance again… The lesson of September the 11th… is that we’re vulnerable to attack . . . and we must take threats which gather overseas very seriously.”
Again, this is from a publication from the Army’s premier academic institution.
Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks, in his story about the release of the report, contacted the director of the War College unit that published the report (the Strategic Studies Institute) to give him a chance to throw Record to the wolves if he wished to do so. He didn’t:
[Record’s] essay, published by the Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute, carries the standard disclaimer that its views are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Army, the Pentagon or the U.S. government.
But retired Army Col. Douglas C. Lovelace Jr., director of the Strategic Studies Institute, whose Web site carries Record’s 56-page monograph, hardly distanced himself from it. “I think that the substance that Jeff brings out in the article really, really needs to be considered,” he said.
Publication of the essay was approved by the Army War College’s commandant, Maj. Gen. David H. Huntoon Jr., Lovelace said. He said he and Huntoon expected the study to be controversial, but added, “He considers it to be under the umbrella of academic freedom.”
So it sounds like Lovelace and Huntoon knew what they were getting into, and decided to go ahead anyway. All we can hope is that somebody is listening.